Is there an ethical distinction between lying to get your country out of a war and lying to get your country into one? DeGaulle did the former when, in a room filled with French officers, he proclaimed “Algerie Francaise!” only to win power and pull out of a long, drawn out colonial war that had left hundreds of thousands dead and which had left France drained. The preponderance of the evidence strongly suggests that Bush did the latter when he said the existence of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction was sufficient reason to go to war with Iraq.
Saddam Hussein was under an obligation to destroy his WMDs under the terms that ended the first Iraq war. To justify a second Iraq war to implement a regime change, Bush needed to show that Saddam Hussein was in violation of those terms. His basic instrument was United Nations Resolution 1441. In order to get a second resolution to satisfy his only real ally, Britain, he needed evidence that the U.N. inspectors were failing and that WMDs did, indeed, exist.
To this end, Colin Powell trotted out photos of vehicles that may or may not have been mobile weapons labs and produced statements by defectors that the WMDs did exist. To this spectacle, America and Britain added an obsolete dissertation by a graduate student published in an Israeli journal from an institution for research in international affairs funded by Ronald Lauder, and forged documents from Niger about Saddam’s attempts to purchase uranium for making nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, Bush and his minions, including Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleeza Rice kept repeating that the WMDs were there, and that there were proven Iraqi ties to Al Queda, the other justification for the war being that it was somehow related to the war on terrorism. There is still no concrete proof of any Iraq—Al Queda connection.
An army officer, a key source in Kirkuk, reports that not only is the MEK (Mujahaiden Badr Corps) not a pro-Al Queda operation with ties to Iran, as the Bush administration asserted, it is opposed to the regime in Iran and has been fighting Iranian para-military units in Northern Iraq. Well equipped and superbly trained, the MEK did fight with Saddam Hussein against Iran, but only for the purpose of toppling the Mullahs. Most of the upper level MEK commanders and a very significant minority of their troops are women, so they hardly qualify as Fundamentalist terrorists. When Condoleeza Rice said their base in Northern Iraq where they trained was tied to Al Queda, she was lying through her teeth. She knew exactly who and what they were. The Army source in Kirkuk reports that Rumsfeld is considering using them in an invasion of Iran, the way he used the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. The only difference is that the MEK is a far superior fighting force. It is currently under U.S. Army protection against the Iranian para-military units.
Moreover, David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security and a former U.N. nuclear weapons inspector in Iraq, has said, "We conclude that the large number of deployed weapons the administration said that Iraq had was not nearly as sophisticated as the administration claimed." And the discovery of two possible mobile biological weapons labs falls far short of the claims that Bush and members of his administration made before the war.
It was Bush, himself, who said in an October 2002 speech, "We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas. And surveillance photos reveal that the regime is rebuilding facilities that it had used to produce chemical and biological weapons?"
The Bush administration also accused France and Germany with providing Iraq with technology in the form of precision switches that could be used to detonate nuclear bombs. In actuality, as The New York Times reported, the switches were presented as spare parts for medical equipment and French authorities had immediately barred the sale.
Was this a Hitlerian use of the "big lie" technique ("Repeat a lie often enough and the people will believe it. The bigger the lie, the more it will be believed.") or did the Bush administration actually believe that these things existed? And if it were a matter of lying, is lying about war any better or worse than lying about sex? When Clinton denied that he had a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinski, his position was that there had been no penetration. Of course, he lied under oath, which is not the same thing as lying in a speech or a press conference. But if the lies add up to what can be called an "abuse of power," it starts to become something much more troubling than the inability to acknowledge that fellatio is indeed sexual, the major difference being that in the case of abuse of power, it is the country and its people who are violated. And abuse of power is abuse of power, whatever the nutty professor, Leo Strauss, might have said.
But before one can answer any of these questions, one must first understand that in Washington, knowledge is power. And since the basic game in Washington is getting power, it follows that having exclusive access to knowledge is the essential ingredient for the accumulation of power. Which is why the director of the CIA is always one of the most powerful figures in Washington. As head of the CIA, he is also the DCI, the Director of Central Intelligence, meaning that all intelligence flows through him. Such agencies as the NSA, the DIA, Army Intelligence, Navy Intelligence, and any other agency involved in intelligence, report to the DCI. As since it is the head of the CIA who briefs the president every morning on matters of intelligence, it is he who defines the arcane realm of intelligence and its consequences to the chief executive, who is also commander in chief of the armed forces.
This is not a situation that sits well with Donald Rumsfeld, the SECDEF, as he is known in the corridors of power. Rumsfeld sees himself more as the Secretary of War (as that cabinet position was once known) than as the Secretary of Defense. He is not into defending. He is into attacking. He sees his task as defining who the enemy is and then obliterating him. It is inconceivable to him that he must wait for the intelligence gathered by his own military intelligence agencies to flow through George Tenet, who then interprets it to the President, before he can act on it. It quickly became obvious to him that he needed to bypass this bureaucratic hierarchy.
To this end, he allowed Paul Wolfowitz, his Deputy Secretary, to create the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans, the "Cabal," as Seymour Hersh, writing in The New Yorker, has said they call themselves. Its director is Abram Shulsky, a disciple of Leo Strauss (who said lying by the leader was OK), who reports to Under-Secretary of Defense, William Luti, a retired Navy captain who was a strong supporter of war with Iraq. But with a small staff and limited resources, it was not likely that this office could, by itself, effectively find the WMDs. And while it did work to secure the cooperation of the leaders of the Iraqi National Congress, including its leader, Ahmed Chalabi, who had secured secret CIA funding, it was not so much a collector of intelligence as a receiver of it. The beauty of the Office of Special Plans, is that it does not fit into the hierarchy that must report to the DCI. It reports directly to Rumsfeld, himself. Rumsfeld needed a way to get intelligence in such manner as to circumvent the DCI, so he, with his own direct access to the President, could contradict what George Tenet was telling him.
Enter Science Application International Corporation (SAIC), the world’s largest private "Information-Technology" ("I-T") company, which, since January 23, 2003, is a major Department of Defense contractor. A Fortune 500 company with annual revenue of $5.9 billion, it is the world’s largest consulting firm and one of the top 100 defense contractors. Its Board of Directors includes Bobby Inman, Admiral USN, (Ret.), once regarded as anti-Israel and forced to withdraw as a candidate to head the CIA, but now, more than willing to make amends for the right price. SAIC is a leader in biomedical research and has provided biomedical information to the Federal government. It is involved in nuclear energy and in chemical research, providing "terrorism response training" and "inspection technology" for the defense industry. It currently aids the United States Government in establishing "a formidable presence to arrest or even prevent Global terrorist activities." It boasts: "SAIC’s national security efforts reach across all branches of the military and support the full spectrum of military operations — from peace keeping and humanitarian missions to major conflicts. SAIC also helps the Department of Defense, the FBI and other agencies combat terrorism, cybercrime and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."
In actuality, as sources in the Pentagon report, SAIC is the vehicle for the information Special Plans has been receiving. And it, in turn, according to sources in Jerusalem, has been receiving information from Israeli sources involved in chemical and biological warfare and from the Mossad, which, increasingly, has grown so suspicious of the CIA, it has become sufficiently alienated from it to prefer to cooperate with Rumsfeld rather than with Tenet. Israel rejected the Tenet plan and resents the fact that the CIA has been put in charge of overseeing the implementation of the Road Map. According to inside sources in Tel Aviv, Sharon suspects Tenet of being pro-Palestinian and regards giving him information as counter-productive. Which is why, as Seymour Hersch reported in The New Yorker, Tenet is getting beaten up and morale at the Agency is at an all-time low.
Meanwhile, according to the Israeli sources, the Mossad gets a considerable amount of its information from its Iraqi operatives, most of which are from the Iraqi National Congress (INC), including Ahmad Chalabi, who is a virtual Mossad operative. Mossad’s objective is to make Chalabi, who is currently looked upon with suspicion by the CIA, so indispensable to the Americans, that he will end up organizing, if not heading, the eventual Iraqi government. Indeed, he is rapidly becoming L. Paul Bremmer III’s pet rock. To the Israelis, he is the only alternative to an Islamic republic, something that is anathema to them and totally unacceptable because of its inevitable threat to Israeli security. And while it is true that, on the surface, the Pentagon is running Chalabi, he is ultimately a creature of Israeli intelligence, which now says, as it has been widely reported, that the WMDs it identified to Bush have been smuggled out of Iraq and are now in Syria, where Israel wants the next regime change.
There is a rationale to what the Israelis have been doing in providing their information with regards to the WMDs. Bush wanted his war because, a White House source related, Karl Rove told him that it would keeps his polls up. As long as the war against terrorism goes on forever, which the invasion of Iraq now appears to guarantee, given the suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia and Morocco, Bush won’t fall victim to his father’s fate, when his victory in Iraq was forgotten by the time the election came around. He wanted it also because it would rid Saudi Arabia of its only military threat, so American troops could leave the Islamic Holy Land. The Israelis wanted him to buy into the WMD basis for the war, so he would eventually have to turn against Syria to prove he was right. Israel has openly called for a "regime change" in Syria. With the suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and again in Israel, the heat is on again. Another major terrorist attack in America and Bush will blame Syria and/or Iran. And the worse it gets, the bigger the SAIC contract will be. Does SAIC want to see Bush re-elected? Does Roger Clemens throw right-handed?
So did Bush lie? It all depends on how one defines "lie." Coriolanus "dissembled," which is defined as "to hide under a false appearance, to put on the appearance of: SIMULATE: to put on a false appearance: conceal facts, intentions, or feelings under some pretense."
"What have you done? Behold! The heavens do ope,
the gods look down, and this unnatural scene
They laugh at. Oh my mother! Mother! O!
You have won a happy victory to Rome;
But for your son, believe it, O believe it,
Most dangerously you have with him prevail’d,
If not most mortal to him. But let it come."
De Gaulle won a kind of victory for France by dissembling. Because humans are misled by rhetoric, as Heidegger said, what he did was probably right, but it was the opposite of Leo Strauss’ political philosophy because it was the reverse of the interventionism Strauss advocated. But maybe most Americans simply don’t care about any of this and are prepared to take Bush’s word for it, or simply let him get away with it, because they have no interest in politics and would like to have someone else take care of everything for them. What do they care if Leo Strauss is, in actuality, the theorist of choice of the new Military-Industrial Complex.? But as Pericles observed, "Just because you don’t take an interest in politics, doesn’t mean that politics won’t take an interest in you."
Richard Cummings [send him mail] taught international law at the Haile Selassie I University and before that, was Attorney-Advisor with the Office of General Counsel of the Near East South Asia region of U.S.A.I.D, where he was responsible for the legal work pertaining to the aid program in Israel, Jordan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is the author of a new novel, The Immortalists, as well as The Pied Piper — Allard K. Lowenstein and the Liberal Dream, and the comedy, Soccer Moms From Hell. He holds a Ph.D. in Social and Political Sciences from Cambridge University and is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers.